Yay, Venom are back! The band who've spent the last twenty years or so treading water have released their latest album. First impressions are NOT good. Partly to do with the artwork. Not only does it look half-finished, but it's cheesy as well. The only way this could have been any more stock and cliche is if it had a big-breasted valkyrie woman with a cleavage you could ski down on the cover, holding a broadsword because...phallus imagery. The artwork on the first three releases was minimalist but it grabbed your attention. This just looks awful. Hopefully, the music won't be as bad.
I've done a Venom blog before (Calm Before The Storm - it'll be in the 'Venom' section of this blog) so this will be their second entry. The only problem I had with that blog was that it didn't mention much about the band themselves. I usually like to give a bit backstory so here goes,,,
Venom are possibly one of the most important bands in the history of metal, due to their influnece on thrash metal, death metal and most notably black metal (That was the name of their second album and it would also be the name for another subgenre of heavy metal music which was then adopted and perfected by a select group of mental Norwegians who had no sense of irony and turned it into some kid of occult terrorism or National Socialist mantra, depending on the band). Whilst the first three albums were all conquering (as was the fourth one but I think only I share that opinion), they weren't without their flaws. Critics were quick to pick up on the crude musicianship and shit production which permeated these albums (The first three albums were recorded at Impulse Studios in Wallsend, the town where I live. It's not longer there as it was knocked down and made into a block of flats). Whilst it's true what they said, the fact that these albums went onto have such an influence is proof that you don't need to have musical dexterity or classical training to make great music. They are definately dated now, but come on, 'Welcome To Hell' came out over thirty five years ago, of course it'll be dated! The music itself, although great, comes across like Motorhead if they were into Satanism instead of chicks and bikers. The band have admitted that they weren't really into the occult but used the imagery for shock value. I suppose it's better than branding an inverted cross into your forehead.
Throughout the years, their infuence waned due to the band they'd influenced overtaking them both comercially and artistically before they called it a day in the early 90's. They reformed and then released some more albums which tried to hit the heady heights of their 80's heyday but didn't quite make it. Line-up issues didn't really help. In fact, the only original member on this album is Cronos himself, bass player and vocalist. Guitarist is a lad called La Rage and drummer is Dante. So although we've got the 'power trio' format like the first four albums, is it any good? Well, lets give it a listen...
Eruptus - Synthy intro with creepy noises in the background. Tbh, it's nothing that hasn't been done in the last thirty years or so, but it is done quite well, to give it it's due.
From The Very Depths - Galloping first song proper, which explodes into being! Cronos and his trademark roar are ever present, and the rest of the band sound good as well. In fact, the production is actually quite good for a Venom album. This is definitely a throwback to the NWOBHM scene that Venom were a part of back in the day. Live, this will have a multitude of fist-bangers all pounding the air (Fist banging: what metallers did before the mosh pit became a part of the live show). As you can expect, this song is about summoning Satan "from the very depths...OF HELL!" So they're calling Satan up from Middlesbrough, are they?
The Death Of Rock And Roll - Fast song which name checks Kid Creole. They also talk about "devestating thrash" which is irony in itself seeing as it was thrash which consigned Venom to the 'where are they now?' file or a bit. This is a decent enough song.
Smoke - Wah-pedal infused intro which leads into a chugger about cursed ghosts or some shit like that. Funny how their contemporaries now sing about social stuff yet these guys are still stuck in some kind of heebie-geebie candyland. Whatever floats your boat.
Temptation - We're now four songs in and so far, I've been severely underwhelmed. Nice solo and the drilling riff which holds the song together is good but the rest of it isn't all that.
Long Haired Punks - Yeah, this is a good song! Tries something different too. Going from a slow, Black Sabbath-like dirge to a speedy refrain, it's quite schitzophrenic but it works! For the first time on this album, my interest has risen. A ferocious song about Long Haired Punks.
Stigmata Satanas - Mid-paced power! It seems like the band are starting to find their feet. Nice groove to the intro, the rest of the song is worthy-decent too. I guess it's good to just get some decent, no-frills metal for a change.
Crucified - Another slice of mid-paced power which does what it says on the tin. No real frills but it's certainly entertaining enough and fills a hole. I can imagine this would be a great song live. Headbanging steadily to this one.
Evil Law - Noise intro that sounds like burping, soon develops into a nice opening riff which reminds me of the kind of thrash the band inspired. Doomy riffs follow and the realisation dawns that they've got slower since Stigmata Satanas. Up to them, but I usually find three slow songs in a row tends to kill the overall flow of the album (See 'Chinese Democracy' by GnR and 'Transgression' by Fear Factory as proof of this. Mind, it didn't do Sabbath any harm...). Again, it's a good song which manages to take on a new life with a fast mid-section before going back to Doomtown.
Grinding Teeth - No, not me registering distasin to this album as it's actually okish once you scrape away the filler but a fucking ripper of a song! We're back up to fast tempo, lads, and we're better for it. Mind, starting a song with "Liar! Liar!" is asking for trouble as it conjures up images of that childhood song. Mind, the second verse starts with "Anger! Anger!" so I guess it's part of the song structure. It's a good song though, the kind of fast 'scorcher' that Venom are known for, just all modern. Mind, there seems to be a 'woooooaaaaaahhhhhhh' at the start of each verse. Yes, this is a good song.
Overture - Oh my, acoustic/clean intro! Which leads into next song...
Mephistophleles - Not much to say about this one other than it's fast, has drilling riffs and should have been in the first four tracks of the album. Nice headbanger though.
Wings Of Valkyrie - Nice heavy song. Again, should have been at the start of the album. The classic metal influences show through in this song.
Rise - Intro is crowd noise before leading into a fast song where "All you sinners rise, raise your hand and fists"...is this 1980 and we're all pissed at the Reds invading Afghanistan? It might as well be as this song sounds like a throwback from that era. It sounds like a crowd inspiring song which was already covered on "Stand Up And Be Counted" from At War With Satan but that song was better.
At first, I was ready to tear this album a brand new one but luckily, it got better. Albeit not by much. The problem with it is it's just not as good as previous releases. They don't sound like a band that have ran out of ideas but rather a band who only had one idea to start with. And if that idea is played with perfection then no harm shall be done. However, it's played rather average here, with any spark or urgency totally unable to be spread throughout the whole album. So basically - too much filler. Take out the first four songs (leave Eruptus in there though) as well as Overture and Mephistopheles - possibly Wings Of Valkyrie and Rise - and we'd have a decent enough album which will not win any awards for originality or strides made over the years but will hopefully satisfy anyone who likes metal when it was metal, before the subgenres took over.
5/10 - It could have been a bit better.
Top Track: Grinding Teeth.
This album is available on iTunes.